grandparentingMany middle-aged and senior adults will tell you one of the best things about getting older is becoming a grandparent. Often the joy of grandparenting rivals that of parenting, but it comes without the exhausting responsibility of raising the child.

The benefits of inter-generational relationships are significant. For both generations, healthy relationships mean extended family support, encouragement and companionship.

Grandparents can be powerful role models

Years of experience and increasing wisdom often make grandparents better at being grandparents than they were at being parents, and they serve as powerful role models in many ways — helping children build positive attitudes toward aging; learn about their family history, culture and traditions; and, perhaps most importantly, develop life skills.

Research has demonstrated how crucial it is for kids today to have mentors outside their parents. Kids who have the greatest number of social assets, successes and emotional stability come from backgrounds where there was a significant mentor in their lives — that person is often the grandparent.

Many grandparents wish for these positive relationships with their grandchildren but often don’t know how to achieve it. The following tips can help:

Respect and honor the parents.

The geographic fragmentation of families in America today often results in different parenting styles between generations. It’s important to understand that what worked for you is not necessarily what will work best for other parents. Respect your grandkids’ parents and do your best to honor their wishes.

Spend time with your grandchildren doing things they enjoy.

Grandparents sometimes expect too much in the quality of interaction with their grandkids. Simply being together — and playing together — is an effective way to build that relationship.

Younger grandchildren enjoy simple activities like playing ball, building with blocks or reading together. For older grandchildren, you can take them to a sporting event or watch one together on television. Or you can take them out to eat or go shopping together.

Playing with your grandchildren can meet a variety of their needs while being revitalizing and rejuvenating for you.

Be part of your grandchildren’s lives.

Even if you live far away, you can keep in touch with phone calls, e-mails and letters. And instant and text messaging can make you one of the coolest grandparents around.

Offer to babysit.

This is a great way to give tired parents a break while getting one-on-one time for yourself with the grandkids.

Don’t judge or criticize your grandchildren; congratulate them on what they do well.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your grandchildren is to accept them without judgment. By doing so, you can become a trusted, respected mentor in their lives. And you help them develop a stronger sense of self-esteem and personal value and a sense of being loved.

Be more than a grandparent

Finally, remember you have the potential to be far more than a grandparent. You can be a teacher, mentor, role model, historian and spiritual guide. As you assume these roles in a genuine, loving way with your grandchildren, you’ll likely find these relationships to be one of the most golden things about your golden years.